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Friday the 13th (NES) artwork

Friday the 13th (NES) review

"Horny pot-smoking counselors outrunning a masked maniac isn't enough to fill a side-scrolling action game, but it can definitely work for a cheesy film. There isn't enough there to inspire constant interactivity, and just running around and avoiding or killing Jason would be a dull task. However, padding out the finished product with broken ideas is less favorable than not bothering with the project."

How does one turn a fun, mindless slasher flick into an effective NES title? The answer is simple: one doesn't. I should have realized that before renting Friday the 13th and wasting that weekend's allowance. Unfortunately, I didn't realize it until I failed for the fiftieth time, having been lost in the woods for an hour and killed by a powder-blue wolf rather than by Jason Voorhees.

The concept is simple and unique, even commendable: choose a counselor (Mark is the only one worth using) and run laps around Camp Crystal Lake in a side-scrolling environment, protecting campers and fellow counselors, while trying to kill Jason. Since you start off with mere rocks as your weapon, fighting Jason early on is an ill-advised task. Thus, the hunt for more powerful weapons--a hunting knife, an axe, a machete, a torch--begins. This is where developer Pack-In Video's intriguing premise begins to falter. The only way to find these items is to hop around like an idiot until they randomly appears. Combined with the irritating and repetitive five note BGM, jumping about repeatedly as a means of item discovery will drive you insane.

As you gather your battle implements, bright orange zombies rise from the earth to rip you to shreds and wild animals like bats and crows threaten to peck your eyes out. Never was there a scene in a Friday the 13th movie where a victim rose from the grave, nor was anyone killed by a man-eating crow. It's understandable that the game needed more than Jason as a threat, but now we're no longer playing a purely Friday the 13th product. It's gone into crossover mode, incorporating both elements Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Animals.

You may have guessed that Jason wasn't going to wait for you to find the most powerful weapons before he starts bumping off counselors. The instant you set foot on the path, one of the counselors will call for help. Kind soul that you are, you rush to the aid of your friend regardless of the fact you've had no time to look for better weaponry. You reach the cabin in the nick of time, your buddy thanks you from the bottom of his (nearly ripped out) heart, and you search the cabin graphic adventure style to find Jason. Lord knows you won't find much else in most any cabin besides mostly worthless notes.

Hiding in one corner is your opponent, decked out in a purple jumpsuit and a nauseating aqua-colored mask. Never has he appeared less frightening than now. You chuckle and toss stones at him, noting that they do almost no damage. Jason punches you and a significant chunk of your health vanishes. No matter how swift your character is, Jason will always land a punch. Somehow Jason, who's usually a slow, lumbering hulk in the films, is too fast to dodge. Within a few unavoidable shots, your character will be lying in a pool of his own blood.

Your only alternative is to say screw it and let your friends die while you scout for better weapons. Bear in mind that Jason can find you no matter where you are on the map. He will randomly appear while you're out on the camp pathway fighting zombies, and battling him there will be no easier than in the cabins.

There are special items waiting in the forests and the cave that can give you slight advantages. Battling Jason's mother's severed head in the cave on a certain day will yield various booty, all depending on when you find her. You may nab a sweater, good for reducing damage; or a pitchfork which can slice through multiple enemies at once. But this is assuming you can navigate these deathtraps. Every stretch of forest or cave is the same background with a few different paths to take. Differentiating one stretch from another is extremely difficult, as they all look exactly alike. There are no distinguishing features that most any game would logically use, and because of that it's easy to get lost and even possible to never find your way out..

Despite the weaponry at your disposal or where you hide, Jason will find you. He'll crush your skull like a Tecmo game, then move on to the other counselors and repeat the process. Once he's picked everyone off, one last brutal message will greet you:

You and your friends are dead
Game Over

You didn't just fail, or lose, or falter. You died. This is arguably the most finalizing game over message, aggressively stepping forward to you say that you've paid the ultimate price for failing to defeat the undefeatable. Instead of seeking Jason out, the goal and main reason for Friday the 13th fans to play, you'll spend most of your time avoiding him. Without fighting Jason, all that's left is a boring and confusing side-scroller combined with a severely dumbed down graphic adventure.

Friday the 13th has taught us something important. Not any film can convert so easily to a game, no matter how simple or mindless that film is. It isn't the level of complexity that renders a film unable to transfer, but the subject matter. Horny pot-smoking counselors outrunning a masked maniac isn't enough to fill a side-scrolling action game, but it can definitely work for a cheesy film. There isn't enough there to inspire constant interactivity, and just running around and avoiding or killing Jason would be a dull task. However, padding out the finished product with broken ideas is less favorable than not bothering with the project. Developers seemed to have learned that. If a movie doesn't seem like it could covert to an effective game, it's probably because it can't.

Rating: 3/10

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (October 22, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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